I’ve spoken a little over the past few days how one of the things affecting me since Stan was run over last weekend is my sense of guilt.
Guilt has always been something that I’ve encountered when we lost one of our other cats, but in all those cases it was different. Each one of them died at the veterinary practice because the decision had been taken to end their suffering. We have lost them to cancers, kidney failure and suspected poisoning from eating something they shouldn’t have while they were outside, and in every case it was very clear that easing their suffering was the most dignified, humane, and loving thing to do. Despite this, the guilt was still overwhelming. Should we have done more for them? Did we overlook something that might have changed the outcome? The feeling of remorse at the times we were too busy to spend time with them (often busy just doing unimportant stuff in the grand scheme of things). And possibly worst of all, the feeling that we might have given up on them too soon. All our other cats lived to a relatively good age – only Tom, another cheeky little black and white fella, died younger, but even he was eight years old. Still too soon though.
The guilt I feel over the loss of Stan is different. It isn’t guilt over a decision to end his suffering, it’s guilt that I could have done something that would have preserved his life. All it would have taken was for me to come downstairs, walk through the kitchen (as I did anyway) and then into the utility-room and lock up his cat-flap for the night. It would have taken a few seconds and he would have been safe and sound in the house with us. Instead, I made a cup of tea and sat down with my wife in the living room to watch a movie. And while we watched, Stan went outside, went onto the road, and then lost his life.
Everywhere I look I’m told that I shouldn’t blame mysef for something like this. I couldn’t have known what was going to happen. I thought he was asleep upstairs still. He’d been outside on many other occasions at this time and always been ok. He sometimes wouldn’t go out at all and would instead just come into the living room and nip at my ankles until I made some room for him to spread out.
But if I’d just locked the cat flap…
It feels a little like the world’s most awful videogame, where the mission is to keep your beloved pet cat safe and well, and I failed. Only instead of re-starting the level and making different choices in order to get a successful outcome, the game just ended with no way for it to ever be played again. It feels a bit cheap to be making an analogy like this. And disrespectful to Stan. But my mind keeps on wanting to re-play the events of last Saturday night as though somehow, maybe in some miracle, I will actually be able to change time and Stan will be back with us, full of love, affection, and mischief.
I was responsible for Stan. I was responsible for giving him a safe home, providing him with food and comfort, keeping him healthy and happy, keeping him safe, and providing him with love. And on one of those things I failed because of a moment of carelessness. The guilt I feel is because of my love for him, and it is because I failed in my duty to him. While I believe that this guilt will ease and the pain I feel will lessen, I’m not sure that I will ever be able to forgive myself properly, and that for the rest of my life, from time to time, I will remember what happened and how I might have so easily changed things. I guess this is a burden of loving
I’ve written this today because I found this page on pet-loss guilt last night. It contains a sentence that seems particularly important given what I’ve spoken about today:
If a beloved pet goes missing or dies suddenly or traumatically, we can tear ourselves apart with guilt for not having foreseen what would happen.If only…. How to deal with pet loss guilt
I actually found that this poage helped with how I am feeling quite a lot, despite what I’ve written above (in fact I would recommend the site from where it is taken – The Ralph Site – as a very good resource for anyone suffering through the loss of a pet or animal companion). And, despite the somewhat downbeat nature of this blog post, I do believe that things will get better over time. My love for Stan is what causes me this pain right now. But my love for him is what will prevail in the end.
I’ll close the post with another photo of Stan. Seeing him makes me happy.